Let’s face it visiting an aging or chronically ill loved one in the hospital is stressful. If you are a primary caregiver or a potential primary caregiver it helps to get prepared in readiness for the surprise emergency visit or an upcoming planned hospitalization. These five tips can help you be a bit less stressed.
1. Familiarize yourself with the Hospital Visit Scale
The Hospital Visit Scale will help you to understand the different types of visits and the potential stress aspects.
2. Be Mindful of Your Things
Know that visiting a hospital means experiencing stress and emotional discomfort. Be most careful when you are doing ER, emergency visits or having first-time entry to a new specialized area in a hospital or experiencing the loss of a loved one. These times are when you are likely to be experiencing the most stress and emotional upheaval. These are the times you are likely to do such things as losing your keys, locking the keys in the car, or forgetting your phone, bag or wallet.
3. Create a Hospital Visit Bag
Over the years, I started to create a go-to hospital bag list that included a plastic disposal carry bag (sometimes you have to put your bag on the floor as space is limited). Don’t plan on using this bag again. Hospital floors are regularly cleaned but they are not always as clean as you think. Bring a few water bottles, Advil, granola bar, a book to read, tissues, notepad and pen and phone/computer chargers. In some cases, I brought in my Caregiver Binder to keep track or convey information to hospital staff.
4. Practice your Stress-reducing Behavior.
Take a deep breath and count to ten before exiting your vehicle in the hospital parking lot. Bring water and your “Go To Hospital Bag” to every visit. Take a moment to think about where you parked your car. Remember weather changes over the hours, be prepared with a jacket or umbrella into the facility if the weather seems questionable. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
5. Learn about your loved one’s In-plan Hospitals.
Become familiar with the resources your loved one’s hospital has for visitors. You can often search for their websites which often give helpful information. Many have cafeterias or coffee bars. Some have quiet or reflective green interior or exterior spaces. Others have “individual family” waiting areas that are designated for family groups to gather. Hospitals are often large confusing places with many corridors and wings. This creates confusion for even the most directionally able individuals. One hospital I visited frequently gave newcomer visitors a colorful welcome sticker to put on their clothes. This enabled hospital staff or knowing and caring experienced visitors to help with directions or provide more friendly and timely assistance. Most hospitals also have small chapels for prayer or meditation. In-house Hospital chaplain resources are generally focused on the patient, however, some hospital chaplains provide services on a limited or case by case basis to family members.
A few hours of preplanning can help you be more comfortable and less stressed during a loved one’s hospitalization. This hospital readiness exercise can make a huge difference for you and your loved ones.